The Real Deal

JASPER, IN — The nation’s kitchen consumers continue to express their diverse tastes through an ever-broadening range of style, color and product choices. When push comes to shove, however, consumers exhibit clear preferences in the cabinets, countertops, plumbing products and other items they purchase.

That finding, among others, has emerged from a nationwide survey of kitchen and bath dealers conducted as an exclusive joint venture between Kitchen & Bath Design News and Decorá Cabinetry, the Jasper, IN-based manufacturer of semi-custom kitchen and bath cabinetry. Conducted early last month via e-mail and fax, the survey – subtitled “The Real Deal” – was aimed at identifying a series of current kitchen- and cabinet-related consumer buying trends.

Participating in the poll were nearly 500 kitchen and bath dealers. The majority of those surveyed (65.1%) reported employing between two and five designers at their company, while 4.6% said they employ more than 15 designers, 10.6% said they employ six to 15 designers and 19.7% reported being sole proprietors.

Wide Product Range
Surveyed kitchen/bath dealers report they display and/or sell a wide range of products on their showroom floor, with the products most commonly displayed including cabinets (carried by 97.2% of respondents), countertops (91.9%), faucets, sinks and plumbing supplies (74.3%), flooring (55.7%) and decorative tiles and embellishments (54%) (see Graph 1). A whopping 83.6% of the survey’s respondents reported that they also manage installation on behalf of their customers – either through in-house employees, subcontractors or a combination of the two.

While kitchen consumers continue to exhibit a wide range of style and color preferences, earthy tones remain the most popular color palette, according to the dealers participating in the Decorá/KBDN survey (see Graph 2). In fact, when asked to rank the popularity of various color palettes – with one being the highest and six being the lowest – surveyed dealers gave the highest ranking to earthy tones, scoring it an average of 1.5 out of six. Tied for next in popularity was the traditional color palette (Chinese red, brown, butters, hunter greens, etc.) and white on white (or white with one color contrast, such as black), both of which received a ranking from designers of 2.9. Pastels were rated a 3.9 out of six, industrial tones (metallics, grays, blacks, accented with other colors) were scored a 4.4 out of six, and very bright tones (including primary colors, neons, retro oranges and greens) received the lowest ranking of 5.4 out of six.

The average kitchen price of the surveyed dealers also runs the gamut of the market. Most of the kitchens, however, fall into a range between $10,000-$24,999 (31.8%) and $25,000-$49,999 (30.0%). Some 29% of the kitchens handled by surveyed dealers carry average price tags of more than $50,000; in contrast, only 9.2% have price tags of under $10,000 (see Graph 3).

In addition, 77.4% of the dealers surveyed reported that the average price of their kitchen projects has risen “significantly” in the last five years, compared to only 22.6% of respondents who have not found this to be the case.

A wide range of products and design features are generally purchased as part of the “average” kitchens they remodel, surveyed dealers report. The most popular of those features are natural granite/marble countertops, dealers say. In fact, 61.7% of the dealers surveyed say that natural granite/marble tops are included in more than 50% of the kitchens they design.

Other popular products and design features include professional-style appliances, which 44.5% of dealers use in at least half of their kitchen designs; under-the-counter appliances such as warming drawers, wine coolers and ice makers, which 35% of dealers include in more than half of their kitchen designs; hardwood flooring, which 29.6 of dealers use in more than half of their kitchen projects; ceramic or stone tile flooring, which 29.1% of dealers include in more than 50% of their kitchen designs; and an extra sink for food preparation, which 28.5% include in more than 50% of their kitchens (see Graph 4).

Broad Customer Base
Nearly half of the dealers surveyed (49.3%) report that the annual household income of their average customer is between $100,000 and $249,000. While 23.2% of the customers they serve have annual household incomes in excess of $250,000, a surprising percentage of the surveyed dealers – 27.5%, in fact – report that the income of their average customer is less than $100,000 annually.

Most of those customers are between 44 and 55 years old, and are individual homeowners wishing to remodel, the dealers reported. A significant percentage of the customer base, however, consists of home builders and contractors, survey respondents noted.

In terms of cabinet styling, traditional cabinetry ranked highest in popularity among the customers of surveyed dealers (see Graph 5). Asked to rank various the cabinet styles in order of popularity, with one being the highest and four being the lowest, surveyed dealers ranked traditional styling as a 1.4.

Transitional styling ranked the next highest, with a 2.2 out of six, followed by modern/contemporary (3.0) and retro/mid-century modern (3.2).

White/cream ranked highest among the most popular cabinet finishes specified by surveyed dealers, with some two-thirds (66.6%) of those surveyed citing it as one of their most popular choices. This was followed closely by natural oaks, maples and cherry (cited by 60.8% of survey respondents), traditional cherry or mahogany stains (noted by 57% of those surveyed), golden oaks or maples (cited by 45.2% of respondents), and very deep contemporary brown shades (cited by 42.2% of those surveyed) (see Graph 6).

The survey illustrates the growing interest in organization in the kitchen, with dealers noting that, of the design elements typically included with the cabinetry they sell, interior cabinet storage/organization accessories were the most common choices, followed by high-end decorative hardware, door panel kits, varied-height base cabinets and more than one color cabinetry.

Other survey findings are indicated as follows: